A House Blessing and the Holy Trinity

A few months after we had moved into our new home, one of my favorite monks, Fr. Thomas Leitner joined us for a special dinner and house blessing. After the introductory prayers and Scripture readings, Fr. Thomas sprinkled Holy Water that had been blessed at the Easter Vigil in each of our rooms—the living room, bedrooms, kitchen, upstairs, downstairs and even next door at Al and Beth’s house, our townhouse roofmates—and a little extra splash for our loyal Dachsy-Poo, Bailey. Our daughter, who was finishing her last year in college, would spend a few months living in our new home, but mostly it would become our empty nest. This blessing for our home was also a blessing for the next chapter in our lives.

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Fr. Thomas also gave us a special gift, a replica of Andrei Rublev’s Holy Trinity Icon. An icon, an image or religious picture, communicates a deeper spiritual meaning often used in prayer and meditation for Christians throughout the world. It was a special image for him, used as the holy card for his ordination and First Mass in 1992.*  He enthusiastically shared with us why he also felt it represented how we would welcome those who entered as guests and the hospitality we would extend in our new home.

Fr. Thomas Holy Card

The three angels in the icon symbolize the three strangers that Abraham welcomes into his tent in Genesis.

Abraham’s Visitors

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent…he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them …He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice calf, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it. Then he got some curds and milk, as well as the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them, waiting on them under the tree while they ate (Genesis 18:1–8).

The three angels wear different colored garments representing their distinct role in the relationship of the Trinity. Viewed left to right, the angels represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “The first angel wears a blue undergarment, symbolizing the divine nature of God and a purple outer garment, pointing to the Father’s kingship. The second angel is the most familiar as he is wearing the clothes typically worn by Jesus…The crimson color symbolizes Christ’s humanity, while the blue is indicative of his divinity. The oak tree behind the angel reminds us of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden as well as the cross upon which Christ saved the world from the sin of Adam. The third angel is wearing a blue garment (divinity), as well as a green vestment over the top. The color green points to the earth and the Holy Spirit’s mission of renewal…The two angels on the right of the icon have a slightly bowed head toward the other, illustrating the fact that the Son and Spirit come from the Father.” (Source: The Russian Icon that Reveals the Mystery of the Trinity, Alteteia, Philip Kosloski, May 21, 2016)

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A chalice sits at the center of the table representing both the literal meal the strangers were invited to and the table of the Eucharist we are invited to. It appears the Holy Spirit points towards an open space at the table, perhaps as an invitation to each of us, to all, to sit at the table—to be welcomed and received as Christ.

“At the front of the table, there appears to be a little rectangular hole. Most people pass right over it, but some art historians believe the remaining glue on the original icon indicates that there was perhaps once a mirror glued to the front of the table. It’s stunning when you think about it—there was room at this table for a fourth. The observer. You!” (Source: Take Your Place at the Table, Tuesday, September 13, 2016, Richard Rohr)

Fr. Thomas’ gift was a perfect expression of what Joe and I desire our home to be—hospitable and welcoming. Ironically, or providentially, a nail hung on an empty wall near where we opened our gift, so I placed the icon on it. It is the perfect place for it—in our living room where friends and family gather, and at the entry to our kitchen where most entertaining takes place.

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Holy Trinity Sunday is celebrated in many churches this weekend. It is an opportunity to remember, “…this Table is not reserved exclusively for the Three, nor is the divine circle a closed circle: we’re all invited in.” (Source: The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell)

St. Benedict insisted that hospitality be one of the highest values for monasteries, writing “Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ.” (RB 53:1) Being hospitable is our opportunity to respond to God’s great generosity towards us.  If we are truly made in God’s image, lovingly invited to the Table and to dance with the Holy Trinity, then we are meant to extend that welcoming invitation to others.

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*A note from Fr. Thomas: This icon, which is used to depict the Holy Trinity, originally was meant to show the three Divine visitors to Abraham (Gen 18:1-15). The day of my First Mass in Noerdlingen was the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C. On this day, Gen 18:1-10a is in the Lectionary in conjunction with Luke 10:38-42, Mary and Martha. The topic of hospitality, that we find as we combine these texts lent itself so well for the homily (preached by my former novice master, Fr. Meinrad) and also for my little speech at the reception. We practice hospitality and, perhaps without being aware of it, receive God in the guest.

Read more about Icon of the Holy Trinity by St Andrei Rublev

Parker Palmer for President: The only political post I will ever make

How do we “ward off the buffoonery and blathering, the racism and sexism and homophobia, the distortions and demonizing, the rhetorical cruelty, the cover-ups, the abysmal ignorance and flat-out lies that suck the marrow from our souls as the 2016 presidential marathon gains momentum”? -Parker Palmer, Breathing New Life into “We The People”

Seriously, how do we??

I want to be an informed voter, to be aware of what’s happening in our country and to understand what the Presidential candidates hope to accomplish. But I just don’t know who or what to believe.

How can so many candidates believe they have the Absolute Truth and the One and Only Answer to all of our country’s problem? How can each of them be right and all the others be wrong? Why do hostility, distrust and self-righteousness have to be the status quo for election years?

As the media and candidates spin their stories, I sit and spin (remember those?) and I’m sit and spindizzy. It makes one want to “hole up for the duration”; to turn off the news and hide every Facebook post that is political. There are some candidates or issues that bring a visceral response—my stomach hurts, my heart beats faster, I get tempted to respond or post my own political comments (likely, equally as uninformed as the post that pissed me off).

So why do I put myself through it? Why did I stay up late to see that, ultimately, a coin toss could determine who would be the Democratic “winner” of the Iowa caucuses? Why do I engage in political conversations that cause discomfort?

I have never been very political.  I would prefer to steer away from political conversations, even with issues I agree. Too often I find myself being the devil’s advocate because, well, that side needs defending too, right? Or I get so wound up (the sit and spin effect) because I know it’s not really a listening-kind-of conversation, but a trying-to-convince-me-of-something conversation. Political conversations seem so hopeless and people become so divided.spinning out of controlAB.jpg

I don’t like disagreement. I don’t like conflict. I want everyone to get along. But I know that I contribute to this conflict as much as I want to avoid it. I have my opinions that I think are right just as much as the person who believes strongly in something different. But having a daughter with a Political Science major and a husband who loves 24/7 news does not allow me to escape the political scene.

Escape is not really a good option anyway: I want to be politically and socially aware, to be able to have an intelligent conversation and an opinion about the issues and candidates that impact our future.

“Though much of our political discourse is toxic, “politics” itself is not a dirty word. It’s the ancient and honorable effort to come together across our differences and create a community in which the weak as well as the strong flourish, love and power collaborate, and justice and mercy have their day.” -Parker Palmer, Breathing New Life into “We The People”

Election years do feel toxic. It feels like there isn’t a lot of community that is created (except with people who are already like-minded). Community implies cooperation with those not necessarily like us, to “come together across our differences”.  But it feels like there isn’t a lot of listening. There is more holding to an opinion, standing our ground on what we think “makes America great” (even though we don’t know what that means and the candidates don’t tell us what they will do to get us there either).

revolution.

“We need a revolution of tenderness.” –Pope Francis

We need “a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally.” –Senator Bernie Sanders

The word that has resonated with me during these past few months is “revolution”.  It has come from the mouth of Pope Francis and from Senator Bernie Sanders. In both situations it is a call for desperate measures, a radical change in the way things are being done and the way we treat each other.

Pope emojiPlease do not mistake me for putting Pope Francis and Bernie Sanders, or any political candidate, in the same category.  Anyone who knows me knows Pope Francis wins any contest hands down (I have Pope emojis, case closed), but it’s the word “revolution” that has me thinking.  Perhaps we all have a sense when things aren’t working, when we need to try something different.

So what can we do to bring about a revolution of tenderness during this election year when it is all too easy to see what divides us, to dwell on the differences?

Parker Palmer, in his article Breathing New Life into “We the People”, makes some excellent suggestions for managing the political angst of an election year.

    1. Value our differences:Only through the creative conflict of ideas has the human race ever accomplished great things.
    2. Listen for the long haul: Holding your differences with others in a way that can sustain dialogue over time, giving everyone a chance to speak, listen, and learn.
    3. Listen for understanding: “The more you know about other people’s stories, the harder it is to dislike, distrust, or demonize them.”
    4. Honor diversity: “Not only visible diversity but the invisible forms of “otherness” (from political persuasions to sexual orientations) that exist among people who look alike.”
    5. Act with hospitality: We have the power to resist the culture of hostility that’s gutting American politics — to act daily in ways that foster a culture of hospitality…”

*all quotes above from Palmer article 

Palmer is a Quaker, but this all sounds very Benedictine.  St. Benedict, in his Rule, states “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ.” (RSB: 53) Treating others as Christ takes intention.

So my goal for this election season is to be a little more Benedictine: to try a little tenderness; to be more hospitable, to be a little more tolerant of opinions different than my own.  To have more conversations where I simply listen; to be less judgmental; to try to understand why others believe or vote the way they do.  I am not an expert (on hardly anything, let alone politics) and I have a lot to learn. I have a lot to learn about treating others as Christ.

Having an attitude of tenderness and hospitality may be the only thing that can bring a revolution within, in this country or this world. As Palmer states, “Just as democracy can die a death of a thousand cuts, it can be given new life by a thousand acts of civility.”  I will do my part.

If you are interested in topics of tolerance, hospitality, listening and self-righteousness according to the Rule of St. Benedict, I encourage you to listen to the podcasts listed below. Kris McGregor of Discerning Hearts interviews Fr. Mauritius Wilde, OSB, PhD, Prior of Christ the King Monastery in Schuyler, Nebraska on Benedictine spirituality. I highly recommend!

HR#6 “In place of provincialism, respect and tolerance” – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde OSB

HR#11 “Instead of circling around one’s self, hospitality” – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde OSB

HR#13 “In place of self-righteousness…seeking God” – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde O.S.B

HR#17 “The Value of Listening and Silence” – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde O.S.B

DiversityA

Card name: Diversity, It Takes All KindsParker Palmer

More from Parker Palmer:  Chutzpah and Humility: Five Habits of the Heart for Democracy in America

 ….and a little more from Parker Palmer! I was tickled to hear from him on Facebook in response to this blog post.

Cece: * A * * Snow * * Day * * Reflection * *

I think of Cece, our neighbor, often, but especially when we have “snow days”.  As a teacher, I benefit from our school district’s closure for inclement weather….today—

A WIND CHILL ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 12 PM TODAY AS -20° TO -25° WIND CHILL COULD CAUSE FROST BITE WITHIN MINUTES AND HYPOTHERMIA. STAY INDOORS AND IN HEATED AREAS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.”snow day1

This is Nebraska—it can get very cold and snowy. We have five extra days built into our school calendar for such weather. We are usually notified the night before or early morning if school is cancelled, but one morning I drove to school and didn’t realize it had been cancelled. From then on Cece Continue reading “Cece: * A * * Snow * * Day * * Reflection * *”

Benedictine Spirituality, Hospitality…and My Favorite Monks

I’m not sure how it really started, that I call the monks of Christ the King PriorymonksMy Favorite Monks”, but I’ve been calling them that for several years now. Once upon a time, I didn’t know ANY monks and now I have “favorite” monks. It was an advertisement in the Lincoln newspaper for a contemplative prayer retreat that brought me to St. Benedict Center (and the Monastery, across the street) in 2002. I am grateful to the monks who have shared their faith and wisdom through contemplative and guided retreats (dozens of them!), the Oblate program, Continue reading “Benedictine Spirituality, Hospitality…and My Favorite Monks”

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